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Former CIA Director’s Barbaric Defense of Using Rectal Rehydration Against Detainees

Screen capture from former CIA Director Michael Hayden’s appearance on CNN’s “The Lead” with Jake Tapper

A released summary of the Senate intelligence committee’s report on the CIA’s rendition, detention and interrogation program, which involved torture, contained the shocking revelation that at least five detainees had been subjected to “rectal rehydration” or rectal feeding. The detainees had feeding or intravenous tubes forced into their rectums in order to help interrogators gain control of them. And, horrifically, former CIA director Michael Hayden has appeared on television to defend how interrogators used this medical procedure to sexually assault and dominate detainees.

His defense of this brutal conduct against detainees builds on his record of lies and fabrication, which are clearly documented in a 37-page appendix to the torture report’s summary.

During the December 11 edition of CNN’s “The Lead” with host Jake Tapper, Hayden was asked about methods of torture that were not authorized. Hayden told Tapper to “stop” and then explained why doing this to detainees was necessary:

That was a medical procedure. That was done because of detainee health. But the people responsible there for the health of these detainees saw that they were becoming dehydrated. They had limited options in which to go do this. It was intravenous with needles, which would be dangerous with a noncooperative detainee. It was through the nasal passages.

(CROSSTALK)

TAPPER: But pureeing hummus and pine nuts and…

HAYDEN: Jake, I’m not a doctor and neither are you.

But what I am told is, this is one of the ways that the body is rehydrated. These were medical procedures. And to give you a sense…

TAPPER: Are you really defending rectal rehydration?

HAYDEN: What I’m defending is history.

To give you a sense as to how this report was put together, this activity, which was done five times, and each time for the health of the detainee, not part of the interrogation program, not designed to soften him up for any questioning — the committee, the Democrats on the committee have used one-half-assed unwarranted comment in one email to justify the story that you have now bought hook, line and sinker that we used this to abuse other human beings.

California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, who led the production of the report as chair of the intelligence committee, “fact checked” Hayden’s assertion that this was not used as a “coercive interrogation technique.” The “fact checking” highlighted the “ample information” in the summary about how the procedure was used to violate detainees.

“Contrary to some claims, this is not a medical procedure, nor was it ever approved by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel as an authorized interrogation technique,” Feinstein declared.

Dr. Vincent Iacopino, senior medical advisor for Physicians for Human Rights, stated, “There is no clinical indication to use rectal rehydration and feeding over oral or intravenous administration of fluids and nutrients.”

“This is a form of sexual assault masquerading as medical treatment. In the absence of medical necessity, it is clear that the only purpose behind this humiliating and invasive procedure is to inflict physical and mental pain.” [Feinstein noted Iacopino’s statement.]

The issue is not one email. The assertion that CIA interrogators were sexually assaulting high-profile detainees like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed with medical tubing in order to exhibit “total control over the detainee” comes from a CIA cable in March 2003 and an interview with the CIA inspector general that same month.

A CIA officer from the Office of Medical Services contended in an email on March 6, 2003, that doing this to detainees could help “clear a person’s head” and get Mohammed to talk.

To the CIA interrogators, it worked. They adopted a “‘softer Mr. Rogers’ persona” because Mohammed had clammed up. Mohammed was “more cooperative.” The interrogation that day was the “best session held to date.” But that does not mean Mohammed was providing true information.

“During this period,” according to the summary, “KSM fabricated information on an individual whom he described as the protector of
his children. That information resulted in the capture and CIA detention of two innocent individuals.'”

On April 12, 2007, Hayden maintained when testifying to the intelligence committee that assertions from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) “regarding physical or threatened abuse” were “egregious” and “simply not true.” He added “threats of acts of sodomy” were not credible.

However, a footnote on page 584 of the summary documents the cruel treatment against Mohammed, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Zubaydah, Marwan al-Jabbur and Majid Khan. Three detainees, Rarazi bin al-Shibh, Khallad bin Attash and Adnan al-Libi, were threatened with “rectal rehydration.”

Khan had his “‘lunch tray,’ consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts and raisins ‘pureed’ and rectally infused.” CIA records show he was “‘very hostile’ to rectal feeding and removed the rectal tube as soon as he was allowed to.”

Nashiri was force-fed Ensure through his rectum while he was “in a forward facing position” with his head lower than his torso.

What Jabbur experienced was initially described as an “enema” but later called “rectal rehydration.”

Zubaydah was subjected to “rectal fluid resuscitation” for “partially refusing liquids.” Another forced enema.

CIA medical officers discussed this form of behavior control.

“[W]hile IV infusion is safe and effective, we were impressed with the ancillary effectiveness of rectal infusion on ending the water refusal in a similar case.”

The same medical officer indicated the best way to insert the “rectal tube” into Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the alleged suspects involved in the September 11th attacks, was to “place it and open up the IV tubing” so that the “flow will self regulate, sloshing up the large intestines.” He also stated “what I infer is that you get a tube up as far as you can, then open the IV wide. No need to squeeze the bag—let gravity do the work.”

CIA personnel also conducted rectal exams with “excessive force” on at least two detainees imprisoned at the Salt Pit facility in Afghanistan. Mustafa al-Hawsawi was “later diagnosed with chronic hemorrhoids, an anal fissure and symptomatic rectal prolapse.”

Agency leadership, including CIA General Counsel Scott Muller and Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt, were well aware that this sexual assault was being employed.

What does not make sense as Hayden expresses his perverted viewpoint that this was just being used as some innocent medical procedure is the fact that, theoretically, prisoners at Guantanamo Bay have been considered by military personnel to be as “dangerous” as detainees that were detained at CIA “black site” prisons.

At Guantanamo, the force-feeding torture has typically been done by shoving a tube up a prisoner’s nose and down the back of his throat. The medical personnel restrain the prisoner in a specially designed chair to immobilize him. There is no need to shove a tube up a prisoner’s rectum and violate him unless military personnel want to exert further dominance over that prisoner.

There is absolutely no need to feed a prisoner in this brutal manner ever—unless the objective is not related to health and instead to torture.

Humiliating and violating detainees has not been limited to rectal feeding or rectal exams. At the “Salt Pit” facility in Afghanistan, CIA paraded detainees around naked in front of guards, even though instructions had been given to not intentionally expose them to “detention facility staff.”

Staff at this facility would take a naked detainee out of his cell, put a hood over his head and drag him up and down the corridor while “slapping and punching him.”

At facilities, “CIA officers (including personnel not trained in interrogation) could, at their discretion, strip a detainee naked, shackle him in the standing position for up to 72 hours and douse the detainee repeatedly with cold water,” according to the summary.

When Hayden was confronted by Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin over the fact that the ICRC alleged detainees were put in “prolonged stress standing position, naked, arms chained above the head,” he replied, “Not above the head. Stress positions are part of the EITs [enhanced interrogation techniques] and nakedness were part of the EITs, Senator.” (This is one of his many lies detailed in the summary.)

Bashir Nasir Ali al-Marwalah, after capture, told “debriefers” he was “forced to strip naked and stand in front of a female interrogator.”

The use of sexual assault continues under President Barack Obama at Guantanamo Bay. The prison staff requires prisoners to be subjected to genital searches before they can meet with legal counsel or have phone calls with their lawyer.

The Obama administration, in court, has fought to continue these searches, which DC District Court Judge Royce Lamberth ruled in July 2013 had to be modified because “nothing in the record indicates that detainees have received any contraband from their attorneys or that detainees have attempted to pass contraband to each other during phone calls or meetings with attorneys.” This protocol is clearly to deter prisoners from communicating with their attorneys.

However, on August 1, the Obama administration won its appeal when the DC Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s decision. It argued there was “tenuous evidence” that the genital searches were taking place with an “improper motive to obstruct access to counsel” and detainees upset with being violated could not overcome “legitimate rational connection between the security needs of Guantanamo Bay and thorough searches of detainees.”

Although Tapper was shocked to hear Hayden articulate a defense of interrogators using a medical procedure to sexually assault detainees or rape detainees to control them, the sadistic remarks of the former CIA director were typical of an individual who has no remorse for the brutality against human beings, which he had some responsibility for overseeing.

Such public displays of callousness are why it is so crucial to prosecute those who authorized, oversaw and covered up torture and not simply move forward.

Vile lying characters like Hayden can haunt the studios of cable television sets and rationalize torture without any fear of any repercussions so long as the United States government undermines the part of the Convention Against Torture that President Ronald Reagan signed, which clearly states under “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever” are governments that sign the treaty allowed to torture people.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."